No Day Without Blues

I started listening to music at the age of 12-13, I have “my old man” to thank, as I was referring to him then, because he had hundreds of tape recorders with exceptionally good copies of original blues, dixieland, rock, metal, French music, rock’n roll, and psychedelic records. A very wide range of music that I “got my hands on” from the onset. It was the ‘80s, and he had just about everything a guy from a generation ago had to have, which meant all the best music from the ‘60s and ‘70s, plus a lot of black people’s music from their beginnings, including gospel – the church songs of the former slaves on the plantations. Songs that later inspired blues, rock’n roll, dixieland, and even later hard rock, etc. If you listen carefully to Pink Floyd and Rogers Waters, you can’t help but notice that almost all of their songs are built on blues chords.

Everything – all the music nowadays – started from those people suppressed by fate, who either sang at work, or when they went to church, or in the evening after the end of a tiring day. They sang about ordinary and human things: joy, sadness, love, alcohol, hope, the woman of their dreams, God, quarrels, cotton, freedom, happy moments, and more. At first only with their voice, then with rudimentary or everyday instruments – an empty tin can, the board they used for washing clothes at the river, etc. – and then, as time went on, they started playing the guitar, the piano and the harmonica and, finally, they made them electric. Which actually represented the turning point in music, as the possibility of interpretation brought about endless opportunity. Joe Satriani and his eminent student, Steve Vai, two sacred monsters of rock and electric guitar, have entire albums built on the classical blues and rock’n roll chords.

Of all the music that has stuck with me – I always desire to listen to blues, I just always come back to it. Be it “black” – played by sacred monsters of the genre, or be it “white” – taken over by white singers in Chicago at first and then spread in various forms throughout the United States and then the world. However, if you want to listen to blues, you turn to Americans, either “black” or “white”. There are exceptions, such as Fleetwood Mac or Jeff Beck in his early days, who were British, but played an exceptional “white” blues, almost black. For example, the song Need your love so bad by Fleetwood Mac, at that time with Peter Green on the guitar and vocals. Peter Green tried to sing “black”, even the modulations of his voice were from that area of influence. All in all, the blues sung by the “blacks” was the leaven used for almost everything we listen to today.

For me this is the music of life, a few simple guitar chords – happy or sad – that support the voice and the melodic line, simple words about “life, with the good and the bad”, percussion and bass that keep the rhythm section simple, stenic. But the voice and the message of the words are in the foreground, apart from the obligatory guitar or sometimes piano solo. Blues can be declamatory, sad, happy or rebellious, but never bad or depressing, even if it is slow or it talks about failures. Blues is essentially positive, whatever it does. Out of all the blues songs I listen to, none, absolutely none pushes you to despair, depression or worse, no matter how sad it is. Blues is music made by people who had it difficult, but did not lose hope. And they sang, thus keeping their spirits alive.

Godsmack, a “heavy” band, could not have sung what they usually do without the early bluesmen or the whites who reinterpreted the genre. Here, with a song from the classic blues repertoire, Reefer Headed Woman, sung by many of the classical forerunners.